Nylons




For Nylon 6,6 at a glance, click here!
For Nylon 6 at a glance, click here!

Nylons are one of the most common polymers used as a fiber. Nylon is found in clothing all the time, but also in other places, in the form of a thermoplastic. Nylon's first real success came with it's use in women's stockings, in about 1940. They were a big hit, but they became hard to get, because the next year the United States entered World War II, and nylon was needed to make war materials, like parachutes and ropes. But before stockings or parachutes, the very first nylon product was a toothbrush with nylon bristles.

Nylons are also called polyamides, because of the characteristic amide groups in the backbone chain. Proteins, such as the silk nylon was made to replace, are also polyamides. These amide groups are very polar, and can hydrogen bond with each other. Because of this, and because the nylon backbone is so regular and symmetrical, nylons are often crystalline, and make very good fibers.

The nylon in the pictures on this page is called nylon 6,6, because each repeat unit of the polymer chain has two stretches of carbon atoms, each being six carbon atoms long. Other nylons can have different numbers of carbon atoms in these stretches.

Nylons can be made from diacid chlorides and diamines. Nylon 6,6 is made from the monomers adipoyl chloride and hexamethylene diamine.

This is one way of making nylon 6,6 in the laboratory. But in a nylon plant, it's usually made by reacting adipic acid with hexamethylene diamine:

If you want to know how this works, click here.

Another kind of nylon is nylon 6. It's a lot like nylon 6,6 except that it only has one kind of carbon chain, which is six atoms long.

It's made by a ring opening polymerization form the monomer caprolactam. Click here to find out more about this polymerization. Nylon 6 doesn't behave much differently from nylon 6,6. The only reason both are made is because DuPont patented nylon 6,6, so other companies had to invent nylon 6 in order to get in on the nylon business.

A family of nylons with their own page are aramids.

Other polymers used as plastics include: Other polymers used as fibers include:
Polypropylene Polypropylene
Polyesters Polyesters
Polystyrene Polyethylene
Polycarbonate Kevlar and Nomex
PVC Polyacrylonitrile
Polyethylene Cellulose
Poly(methyl methacrylate) Polyurethanes

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